The State of Homelessness in America charts progress in ending homelessness in the United States. Using the most recently available national data, it is intended to serve as a reference for policymakers, journalists, advocates, and the public on trends in homelessness, homeless assistance, and at-risk populations at the national and state levels.
Homelessness by State
Homelessness in America
However, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness increased nationally by 0.7 percent between 2016 and 2017. The largest increases in that time period were among unaccompanied children and young adults (14.3 percent), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (12.2 percent), and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (9.4 percent). The number of people in families experiencing homelessness decreased by 5.2 percent.
At the time of the 2017 Point-in-Time count, the vast majority of the homeless population lived in some form of shelter or in transitional housing (360,867 people). However, approximately 34 percent (192,875 people) lived in a place not meant for human habitation, such as the street or an abandoned building. Single individuals comprised 66.7 percent of all people experiencing homelessness (369,081 people), and about 33.3 percent were people in families (184,661 adults and children). Approximately 7.2 percent of people counted were veterans (40,056), and 7.4 percent were unaccompanied children and young adults (40,799).
Since 2007, homelessness has decreased overall and across every subpopulation nationally. Overall homelessness decreased 14.4 percent. The most dramatic decreases have been among veterans (34.3 percent), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (27.4 percent), and people living in unsheltered locations (24.6 percent).
Total Number of People Experiencing Homelessness per Year by Type, 2007–2017
State Trends in Homelessness
What Changed Between 2016 and 2017:
- Total Homelessness: 30 states and D.C. reported decreases in overall homelessness, while 20 states reported increases. Georgia reported the largest decrease (2,735 fewer people experiencing homelessness). California reported the largest increase, with 16,136 additional people experiencing homelessness. New York reported the second largest increase—3,151 people.
- Unsheltered and Chronic Homelessness: A slight majority of states followed national increases in unsheltered homelessness (28 states and D.C.) and chronic homelessness among individuals (28 states). California reported the largest increase in unsheltered homelessness (13,252 people) as well as the largest increase in chronically homeless individuals (5,996 people).
- Bucking Trends: Although veteran and individual homelessness increased slightly nationwide, most states reported decreases in both groups: 36 states and D.C. reported decreases in veteran homelessness, while 28 states and D.C. saw decreases among homeless individuals. Georgia reported the largest decrease in homeless veterans (343 people) as well as the largest decrease in homeless individuals (1,843 people).
- 36 states reported decreases in overall homelessness, while 14 states and D.C. reported increases.
- The majority of states followed national trends for every major subpopulation: unsheltered homelessness (34 states reported decreases), individuals (27 states and D.C. reported decreases), family homelessness (38 states reported decreases), chronically homeless individuals (38 states and D.C. reported decreases), and veterans (30 states and D.C. reported decreases).
State-by-State Homeless Population and Subpopulation Trends, 2007-2017
Homeless Assistance in America
Communities across the country respond to homelessness with a variety of housing and services programs, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing. Over the last decade, a shift has occurred in homeless assistance, placing a greater emphasis on permanent housing solutions (such as permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing) and less emphasis on transitional housing programs. Permanent housing interventions account for about half of the beds in the U.S. overall (52.8 percent).
Permanent supportive housing is currently the intervention which has the most capacity, representing 41.8 percent of all homeless assistance beds. Emergency shelter is the intervention with the second greatest capacity level, accounting for 32.8 percent of homeless assistance beds. Rapid re-housing is a relatively newer intervention, with data on capacity only collected since 2013. Nationally it accounts for more than one in ten beds, but the growth rate of capacity has been dramatic—a 372 percent increase from 2013 to 2017.
Homeless Assistance Bed Inventory Trends, 2007-2017
STATE TRENDS IN HOMELESS ASSISTANCE
From 2016 to 2017:
- The majority of states increased permanent supportive housing capacity (33 states reported an increase). The largest increases were in California (3,420 beds), Colorado (2,052 beds), and Texas (1,651 beds). The largest decrease was in Minnesota (1,379 fewer beds).
- Rapid Re-Housing inventories also increased in a majority of states (34 states and D.C. reported an increase). The largest increases were in California (3,010 beds), New York (2,679 beds), and Massachusetts (2,306 beds). The largest decrease was in Washington (1,570 fewer beds).
- Most states increased emergency shelter capacity (33 states). The largest increases were in New York (4,989 beds) and California (4,559 beds). Pennsylvania had the largest decrease (382 fewer beds).
- Transitional housing decreased in almost all states (44 states and D.C. reported a decrease). The largest decreases were in California (2,437 fewer beds), New York (1,883 fewer beds), and Florida (1,714 fewer beds). The largest increase was in Minnesota (113 beds).
- All but one state (Arkansas) report higher permanent supportive housing capacity compared to 2007. The largest increases were in California (33,049 beds), New York (11,331 beds), and Texas (9,488 beds).
- Emergency shelter capacity increased in the majority of states (42 states and D.C. reported an increase). The largest increases were mostly in states with jurisdictions guaranteeing a “right to shelter”: New York (36,274 beds), Massachusetts (5,286 beds), and D.C. (2,887 beds). California also increased capacity by 4,618 beds. The largest decrease was in Michigan (606 fewer beds).
- Transitional housing capacity decreased in all but three states (Hawaii, Wyoming, and Alaska). The largest decreases were in California (11,223 fewer beds), New York (7,994 fewer beds), and Oregon (6,459 fewer beds).
State-by-State Trends in Homeless Assistance, 2007-2017
Populations at Risk of Homelessness
Many poor people are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is because it is hard for them to afford housing. Two major indications of this struggle are the housing cost burden and living doubled up.
Renter households that pay more than 50 percent of their income towards housing are experiencing a severe housing cost burden. The numbers of households facing this burden totaled 6,902,060 in 2016. This is 3.1 percent lower than 2015, but still 20.8 percent greater than 2007.
In 2016 (the latest American Community Survey estimates), 4,609,826 people in poor households were doubled up with family and friends, one of the most common prior living situations for people who become homeless. This is 5.7 percent lower than 2015, but still 30.0 percent greater than 2007.
Size of Population At-Risk of Homelessness, by Living Situation, 2007–2016
State Trends in At-Risk Populations
From 2015 to 2016:
- The number of poor, renter households experiencing a severe housing cost burden decreased in the majority of states (35). The largest percent decrease was in Maine (20.7 percent or 5,022 households) and the largest percent increase was in D.C. (37.9 percent or 8,197 households).
- The number of poor people living doubled up decreased in a majority of states (35). The largest percent decrease was in Montana (56.0 percent or 8,148 people) and the largest percent increase was in North Dakota (180.8 percent or 3,779 people).
- Only three states (Montana, Colorado, and New Hampshire) saw a decrease in the number of poor people living doubled up, while 47 states and D.C. saw an increase. The largest percent decrease was in Montana (10.6 percent or 758 people) and the largest percent increase was in Nevada (133.5 percent or 24,446 people).
- The number of poor, renter households experiencing a severe housing cost burden decreased in only 3 states (Maine, Alaska, and North Dakota). The largest percent decrease was in Maine (4.9 percent or 990 households) and the largest percent increase was in Wyoming (154.8 percent or 6,622 households).
State-by-State Trends in Populations At-Risk of Homelessness, 2007-2016
Sources and Methodology
Data on homelessness are based on annual point-in-time (PIT) counts conducted by Continuums of Care (CoCs) to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night. The latest counts are from January 2017. Point-in-time data from 2007 to 2017 are available on HUD Exchange.
Rates of homelessness are a comparison of point-in-time counts to state, county, and city population data from the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program, accessed via American FactFinder (table PEPANNRES: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population, 2016 version). Most CoC boundaries align with one or multiple counties, and about a dozen align with cities that are entirely within one county. However, four CoCs align with city boundaries spanning multiple counties (Atlanta, GA; Amarillo, TX; Kansas City, MO; and Oklahoma City, OK). For these, the city’s population within the county was subtracted from the total county population to determine the remaining county population, using the Census Bureau’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates (“Place/Remainder or part”).
Data on homeless assistance, or bed capacity of homeless services programs on a given night, are reported annually by CoCs along with point-in-time counts. These data are compiled in the Housing Inventory Count (HIC), which is also available on HUD Exchange for 2007 through 2017.
Data on at-risk populations are from analyses by the National Alliance to End Homelessness of the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey 1-year Estimates, accessed via American FactFinder. Poor renter households with a severe housing cost burden are households whose total income falls under the applicable poverty threshold and who are paying 50 percent or more of total household income to housing rent. For people living doubled up, poverty is based on the composition and income of the entire household as compared to the poverty thresholds. A person is considered living doubled up based on his or her relationship to the head of household and include: an adult child (18 years old or older) who is not in school, is married, and/or has children; a sibling; a parent or parent-in-law; an adult grandchild who is not in school; a grandchild who is a member of a subfamily; a son- or daughter-in-law; another relative; or any non-relative.